Economics done well applies in all times and places. And Faustino Ballvé’s Essentials of Economics is well-done, indeed. In his outstanding introduction, Art Carden speaks of the scandal that it is not better-known. He means, of course, in our own time. The new edition from the Laissez Faire Club helps to rectify the problem.
In the early 1950s, professor Ballvé was teaching in Mexico when he heard Mises speak. They struck up a correspondence. After Ballve felt that he had most of his questions answered, he sat down to write this short book.
Ballvé had trained in the fashionable Keynesianism of his day. His discovery of the Austrian/classical tradition was a made revelation. Having discovered this and become excited about the implications — the capacity of the older tradition to provide a better understanding of the world — he was perfectly suited to write a short primer.
It was published in Mexico in 1956. It sold very well and went into several editions. It was then translated to French.
Once it was translated to English, Leonard Read of the Foundation for Economic Education became a champion of the book. It is clear why. The author managed to reduce the ideas of economists like J.B. Say, Adam Smith, and Ludwig von Mises to a mere 99 pages, making it one of the best short introductions to economic thinking ever written. He covers all the basics and many applications with clear writing and thinking. In some places, you will greater clarity in these pages than you will find anywhere else.
For a critique of Bernanke’s monetary policies, you can turn right to the section on business cycles. For an examination of the problem of monopoly, you can go to that section. His explanation of the role of prices is extremely clear.
This is one way to read the book. A much better way is just to start from the beginning and follow the logic step by step. He wrote it to provide the reader access to a new way to think about economic life and the development of the prosperous society.
As a I writer, I can testify how difficult it is to say anything that holds up over time as still valuable and relevant. But Ballvé did what most others have not done. There are many ways in which I am in awe of this book. It is really a work for the ages.
Professor Carden mentioned to me that he will be assigning this book to all of his students in the future. I’m so pleased that the Laissez Faire Club has played a role in reviving this lost classic.